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Review Date: 03/20/2009

King Leonardo has proclaimed that its time to go back to our DC roots for this week.
So let's review the latest issues of two comics that pay homage to a pair of iconic DC titles:

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Astonishing Tales #2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Four Stories & Art By Many Writers & Artists
John Barber: Editor

 
 

      
One of the most prestigious titles in DC history was the original "Strange Adventures" comic line.  The science fiction-oriented comic ran from 1950 to 1973; among its many accomplishments was the introduction of Captain Comet, one of the last of the pre-Silver Age heroes, as well as the Silver Age introductions of Deadman, The Atomic Knights and Animal Man.  I personally treasure in my own collection the Neal Adams-created Deadman issues of this renowned comic line.

    DC has just published issue #1 in an 8-issue mini-series of a new Strange Adventures, with the series entitled "What Threat Lurks In The Dark Zone?"   Needless to say, there are big shoes to fill by any creative team in taking-up new issues of the comic.  I'm pleased to report that DC meets the challenge in issue #1.  The comic is written by esteemed industry veteran Jim Starlin, with art by Manuel Garcia, Al Milgrom, John Kalisz and Rob Hunter.

     There are two stories in issue #1.  The first story, entitled "Starting Over," stars Adam Strange in a plot that centers on relocating the entire society of his adopted planet Rann to the planet Throneworld, after Rann has been devastated by war.  The tale alternates with a second sub-plot reintroducing us to Captain Comet, as he is pursued by alien thugs on a planet where he's been pulling-off financial schemes due to personal money woes.  A second, 7-page story is both written and pencilled by Starlin.  Entitled "A Minor Incident," the story adds Bizarro, Superman's defective clone, into the Strange Adventures mix, when an alien sorcerer accidentally pulls Bizarro into the developing storyline while miscasting a spell intended to snag Hawkman.

     The goal of issue #1 of this mini-series is to introduce us to the three main characters, Adam Strange, Captain Comet and Bizarro, with further issues bringing the three together as a team to address the Dark Zone situation.  In this respect, the series is off to a solid start.  I immensely enjoyed Starlin's scripting, here; he brings much depth to the panel-by-panel narrative that creates two very credible and detailed science fiction worlds, the planets that both Adam Strange and Captain Comet currently inhabit. 

     While Bizarro might seem like an odd choice for a third member of this superhero team, an excellent narrative provided by Superman in the second story weaves him smoothly into the growing plotline and provides strong credibility as to why he will join the other heroes in upcoming issues.

      So if you like a science fiction theme to your superhero comics, I think you definitely will want to get onboard at the very beginning of this mini-series.

 
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Savior 28 #1
Publisher: IDW
J.M. DeMatteis: Writer
Mike Cavallaro: Artist
Andrew Covalt: Colors

 
 

          
As DC fans know, the "Battle For The Cowl" is the name of the current multi-title story arc addressing the missing Batman situation across a range of DC Batman-oriented titles.  DC is also introducing part of this theme in the new Gotham Gazette comic line.  Issue #1 is scripted by Fabian Nicieza, with a team of eight artists drawing various sections of the comic.  This first issue is sub-titled "Batman Dead?" while the sub-title will change to "Batman Alive?" starting in issue #2.

     The issue #1 plot basically introduces the reader to four key Gotham City characters who will be interacting with each other and addressing the missing Batman mystery as the series unfolds: reporter Vicky Vale, on-leave Superhero Stephanie Brown, Dr. Leslie Thompkins and Police Commissioner Gordon's ally Detective Harvey Bullock.  Each of these characters is introduced to us within their own five-page individual sub-plot, book-ended by a mysterious narrator for the overall story whom we meet in the first and last page of this issue.

     I enjoyed this piece of the "Batman is AWOL" story puzzle for two particular stand-out reasons.  First, one of my favorite elements of the Batman universe is the film noir language and atmosphere often attributed to night in Gotham City.  While not as detailed an element here as in Frank Miller's ongoing DC All-Stars Batman & Robin series, its still an elegant and poetic part of this story.  You can't go wrong with a Batman story that begins with the statement "Listen. Do you hear? The City is restless, concrete skin heaving with deep, cracking breaths.  Gotham City suffers in seething frustration, as it always has..."

     Secondly, one of the strengths that DC has infused into Batman comics over the years is the stand-alone strength of Batman's supporting characters.  The personality and backstory built around Commissioner Gordon alone could easily allow him to carry his own comic line (and at times has, actually).  As such, the depth of these other Batman world characters is both entertaining in this comic and gives me the feeling that developing the Batman storyline for awhile without The Caped Crusader as the central figure will work as both entertainment and as a worthy addition to the various Batman tales developed over the decades.

     So bottom line: enjoy Gotham Gazette #1, both as a stand-alone comic and as an entry issue into this "missing Batman" theme, that's less marketing gimmick and actually more of a sincere, intriguing new take on the world of Batman.

From Our Special Third Review Of The Week Shout-Out Department:

 
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Contest Winner !!!

The Bongo Congo judging team has reviewed the entries for our latest contest, in which you gave us what you'd like to see for a new superhero-based t.v. show, along with some details about how the show would be presented.  And our winner is (drumroll, please)...Fardeen Chowdhury with his pitch for a Smallville-style t.v. show about a young Bruce Wayne, to be called "Gotham" or "Gotham Central."  The judges enjoyed the pitch immensely, and were so impressed with the details that Fardeen gave us that they decided to reprint for your enjoyment his entire show proposal, as follows:

My idea for the show is sort of inspired by the original idea the current producers of Smallville were pitching before they got their
start on the current show, of a young Bruce Wayne. Taking off from this, my show would be called "Gotham", or "Gotham Central" after the comic. The show would actually prominently feature Gordon and Harvey Dent as Gotham's main crime-fighting team, done in a sort of gritty crime drama style. This show would be set in a separate "universe" from that of the current Christian Bale movies, and show Gordon's slow rise to Commissioner, against a corrupt police and local government. Harvey Dent would support Gordon's back as an up and coming criminal attorney, and his slow rise to becoming the DA would also be shown. Bruce Wayne wouldn't be introduced until perhaps the second or third season (assuming it makes it that far!) and would only be shown as a sort of socialite fop, who is usually "out of town" for months, sometimes a year at a time. He occasionally wants to help Gordon and Dent, but they treat him as more of an annoyance, letting him know the only way he can help is to donate to local charities and just keep to himself otherwise.
Bruce would be shown slowly gaining Gordon's trust, but perhaps not Dent's.

Other characters who would be given either subtle or overt introductions would be Selina Kyle, Talia Al Ghul, Dr Thomas Eliot, the Drake family, the Graysons, and so on. Unlike Smallville, these characters would not be interacting with Bruce on a day to day basis or be of exactly the same age as him.

The show would be an hour long drama, hopefully avoiding the pitfalls of the "freak of the week" syndrome that other shows of a similar nature are faced with. While facing regular crime, early instances of classic Batman villains would be introduced, as well as the various mob factions as depicted in the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale books as well as the current films. An interesting twist on the show near its fourth season run, is not to unveil Batman per se, but to keep his existence as more of an urban legend - but his presence is slowly being felt through the department and the city. Jim's confidence in himself as a cop would be shaken given the level of crime escalation (even after his promotion to commissioner) and Dent would find a newfound energy for ridding Gotham of crime after becoming its DA; especially to rid the city of the Batman and the ilk of criminals he seems to be inspiring. The fourth or fifth season would end with Gordon, Dent and the Batman standing together for the first time on the roof of the GCPD building, after the installation of the brand new Bat symbol.

Wow, Fardeen, you should pitch this to the networks, sounds like you've got the entire series covered!
Congrats, and enjoy your contest prize, a $10.00 That's Entertainment store gift certificate.
 
Stay tuned for a new contest announcement in the near future.
Happy reading, and see you next week Here In Bongo Congo!

 
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